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Photo by Jeffrey Czum from Pexels

Human eyes are insensitive to polarized light and ultraviolet radiation, but that is not the case for ants, who use it to locate themselves in space. Cataglyphis desert ants in particular can cover several hundreds of meters in direct sunlight in the desert to find food, then return in a straight line to the nest, without getting lost. They cannot use pheromones: they come out when the temperature would burn the slightest drop. Their navigation talent relies on two pieces of information: the heading measured using a sort of “celestial compass” to orient themselves using the sky’s polarized light, and the distance covered, measured by simply counting steps and incorporating the rate of movement relative to the sun measured optically by their eyes. Distance and heading are the two fundamental pieces of information that, once combined, allow them to return smoothly to the nest.

AntBot, a robot designed by CNRS and Aix-Marseille University (AMU) researchers at ISM, copies the desert ants’ exceptional navigation capacities to navigate without the use of GPS. It is equipped with an optical compass used to determine its heading by means of polarized light, and by an optical movement sensor directed to the sun to measure the distance covered. Armed with this information, AntBot has been shown to be able, like the desert ants, to explore its environment and to return on its own to its base, with precision of up to 1 cm after having covered a total distance of 14 meters. (1)

Navigating without GPS. Walking on your own.

This is the way it was supposed to be.

Relying not on things outside.

But on yourself inside.

Finding not your way with the light of the Sun.

But sensing your path through darkness with the Moon.

Treading the dark forest of existence.

With the help of the light of death inside you.

Trace your footsteps back to where you started from.

How could you ever want to go anywhere?

Take a good look.

These are not your footsteps…